Egyptian tradition of painting Hajj pilgrims’ homes lives on

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Updated 11 August 2019

Egyptian tradition of painting Hajj pilgrims’ homes lives on

  • The pilgrimage season was one of the most important occasions on a calligrapher’s calendar with Hajj pilgrims hiring them to write and draw on their homes
  • Each artist uses their own unique style to portray modes of transport such as camels, planes and ships, holy sites like the Grand Mosque in Makkah, and passages from the Qur’an

CAIRO: An Egyptian tradition of painting the homes of Hajj pilgrims with religious verses and images continues to withstand the passage of time.

The pilgrimage season sees calligraphers and painters busy sketching the journeys of worshippers on the front walls of houses in villages, towns and cities throughout the country.

Each artist uses their own unique style to portray modes of transport such as camels, planes and ships, holy sites like the Grand Mosque in Makkah, and passages from the Qur’an.

Ahmed Sayed Ahmed, 30, is one of the most well-known calligraphers in the Ghouria area of central Cairo, where he has worked for more than 15 years.

He told Arab News that the decoration process began with painting walls white to create a clean canvas for the artwork which usually included the name, gender and age of the person performing the pilgrimage.

Gamal Al-Arabi, another calligrapher and painter from Cairo, said that the tradition was still popular among Egyptian Muslims. Raised in Abnoub in Assiut governorate, he studied Arabic calligraphy for two years in Cairo and later traveled to Saudi Arabia where he worked as a calligrapher and painter.

He said that the pilgrimage season was one of the most important occasions on a calligrapher’s calendar with Hajj pilgrims hiring them to write and draw on their homes.

“In some desert villages they draw the camel, for example, and pilgrims around the Kaaba or during prayer. Recently, the majority of drawings involve ships and planes, but paintings of the Kaaba and the sacred house of God are fundamental,” Al-Arabi added.

He pointed out that his favorite fonts for Islamic inscriptions were diwan and rekea because they were easy to read.


Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

Updated 26 October 2020

Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

  • Majority of respondents to Arab News/YouGov survey consider neither candidate good for region
  • Findings show strong Arab support for Trump on Iran but not on Jerusalem embassy move

RIYADH: Nearly half the respondents in an Arab News/YouGov poll conducted in 18 Middle East and Africa (MENA) countries believe neither candidate in the upcoming US elections will necessarily be good for the region.
Of the rest, 40 percent said Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden would be better for the region while 12 percent said the same thing about incumbent President Donald Trump. But a key takeaway of the poll is that if Biden, who served as vice president to Barack Obama until 2017, wins the White House race, he would be well advised to shed the Obama administration baggage.
When asked about policies implemented in the Middle East under the Obama administration, the most popular response (53 percent) was that the Democratic president left the region worse off, with another 58 percent saying Biden should distance himself from Obama-era policies.
The study surveyed a sample of 3,097 respondents online to find out how people in the MENA region feel about the Nov. 3 US elections.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Containing Iran was found to be one of the top four issues that respondents wanted the next US president to focus on. Strong support for Trump both maintaining a war posture against Iran and imposing strict sanctions against the Tehran regime was noticed in Iraq (53 percent), Lebanon (38 percent) and Yemen (54 percent), three countries that have had intimate regional dealings with Iran.
President Trump’s 2017 decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem proved overwhelmingly unpopular, with 89 percent of Arabs opposing it. Surprisingly, in contrast to most other Arabs, Palestinian respondents inside the Palestinian Territories indicated a greater desire for the US to play a bigger role in mediation with Israel.
Arab opinion was largely split on the elimination this year of Iran’s regional “satrap” Gen. Qassem Soleimani, with the single largest proportion of respondents from Iraq (57 percent) and Lebanon (41 percent) seeing it as a positive move, as opposed to those in Syria and Qatar, where most respondents — respectively 57 percent and 62 percent — saw it as negative for the region.

Iran also figured in the list of perceived threats to US interests, although well behind white nationalism (32 percent) and China (22 percent). The other critical challenges for the US as viewed by Arabs were cybercrime, radical Islamic terrorism and climate change.
For a country that touts itself as an ally of the US, public attitudes in Qatar were found to be surprisingly out of sync with US objectives in the Middle East. The perception of radical Islamic terrorism, Iran and Islamist parties as the “three biggest threats facing the region” was much softer in Qatar compared with the region as a whole.
It came as little surprise that three quarters of respondents want the next US administration to make it easier for people from Arab countries to travel to the US. The figure for Lebanon, for instance, was even higher, 79 percent, underscoring concerns that many young Arabs are actively trying to leave the region.
Among other findings, Arabs remain overwhelmingly concerned about such challenges as failed government (66 percent) and the economic slowdown (43 percent).
Close to half of the respondents (44 percent) would like to see the next US president focus on empowering young people in the Arab region and solving the Arab-Israeli conflict (44 percent), followed by containing COVID-19 (37 percent), reining in Iran and Hezbollah (24 percent), quashing radical Islamic terrorism (24 percent) and tackling climate change (17 percent).